Meet Your Marsy’s Law Team: Kathleen Wrigley
In 2009, Dr. Henry Nicholas formed Marsy’s Law for All and, throughout the years, many talented and passionate individuals have answered the call to help ensure victims have the rights they deserve. The Marsy’s Law for All team is comprised of men and women across the United States who are dedicated to serving victims of crime, in some cases themselves having personally experienced the devasting effects of being victimized. We are grateful for the opportunity to share the stories of those behind Marsy’s Law for All and why we have chosen to commit ourselves to helping victims through the passage of Marsy’s Law.
Please meet Kathleen Wrigley, Marsy’s Law For North Dakota State Chair, who is responsible for working with citizens and community leaders across the state who are advocating for Marsy’s Law in North Dakota.
What made you interested in working with Marsy’s Law For North Dakota?
I come from a long line of law enforcement, but my first real introduction to the criminal justice system was when my brother, a 21-year-old rookie Philadelphia Police Officer, was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1991.
After the trial, I decided I wanted to help other homicide victims’ family members navigate their way through the system. I became a victim advocate in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Homicide Unit, while pursuing my graduate degree.
After marrying a North Dakotan and moving here 18 years ago, I worked as a forensic interviewer and child therapist, and was Director for the Child Advocacy Center, in Bismarck.
I’ve spent most of my adult professional life advocating for victims. The culmination of that experience and my personal journey with my brother’s murder heightened my interest in this statewide victims’ rights effort: Marsy’s Law. When I was presented with the idea of Chairing Marsy’s Law for North Dakota, I was immediately intrigued and started the vetting process.
Is there any experience you can/would be comfortable sharing about how Marsy’s Law could’ve/has affected you personally?
There are probably too many to recount without losing some of your readers’ interest! But I will try to encapsulate a few highlights.
From the start, I’ve been heartened by the level of support (publicly & privately) that my friends in law enforcement have committed. Some of the most trusted law enforcement in the state sat down with our committee to help craft the language so that it best suits our state and the statute on the books. Since law enforcement is most often the first step in the criminal justice process, their support and opinion and courage mattered immensely.
Also, I have heard too many victims and their families tell us their stories of how they fell through the cracks of the system and felt muted by the process. One rape victim’s mother gave this example, she said: “It’s as if someone told me to make a cake, without any of the ingredients or a recipe.”
Too many victims feel like second-tier citizens in a process that started with them being hurt.
I believe with all my heart that it is my responsibility to take what I know and to help others. Victims of crime do not generally have a platform from which to have their voices heard. It is my high honor to be a voice in the silence for them.
Tell us something fun we don’t know about you!
I love fitness and running. I teach group fitness classes. I’ve run 10 full marathons–all with my brother’s name on my race shirt–& fell in the 2005 Fargo Marathon at mile one! I had to pick myself up and keep running–just 25.2 miles to go! My friends gave me the nickname: Speedbump. I also ran the Boston Marathon last year (2015) in a tutu with the names of every fallen police officer from Philadelphia and North Dakota. In.A.Tutu.💙 Speedbump Wrigley runs for cops. In a tutu.
If you could explain why you personally think Marsy’s Law is needed in North Dakota, what would you say?
I would tell your readers the story of the little four-year-old Internet pornography victim, whose family emotionally prepared this child and themselves for the start of the trial, after many continuances without notice to the victim’s family. After spending thousands of dollars, emotional energy, and changes to their schedules to be in the courtroom for the trial, the defense attorney asked for another continuance, simply because he said he was not ready. The Judge granted a continuance without ever considering the child victim or her family.
I would tell you about the young man who was shot and killed at a wedding reception. His family tried in vain to get information on the upcoming court appearances and or hearings for the accused defendant. This family has been frustrated and saddened by the lack of information and how they’ve been treated by the state’s attorney.
I will tell you about the rape victim who was unaware of a change in venue for the trial of the accused, or the plea agreement offered by the state’s attorney.
These are all recent North Dakota cases. Yes. Victims in North Dakota deserve their rights and protections elevated to the constitutional level. When I began the vetting process, I wasn’t so sure North Dakota needed Marsy’s Law. The more I listen to victims’ stories, the more I’m convinced this initiated measure is necessary and uphold our values.